Albert Lovato, Department of New Mexico District 3 adjutant and SAL commander of Post 22
In early April 2022, I presented the possibility of having a youth camp at our post (Post 22) to engage in the pillar of Children & Youth. After presenting, I had nothing but positive feedback from all the members including our Auxiliary. We created a small group committee to see if it was even feasible, especially financing, due to our small post. Nevertheless, the post continued to meet and started to talk to local companies and organizations. To our disbelief, we obtained $400 from a local business, another $100 from a local sign plant, and $1,500 from our local gas company. We knew this was something we could work with, therefore I started to create a PowerPoint on how the structure would be, and a draft schedule. After several other meetings, we decided three days and 12 kids would be more than enough to start this pilot program. We all decided to call it the American Legion Youth Corps, which will serve children from the community ages 8-12. As we all know, Boys and girls State have seen a decline in membership, therefore we decided to start with the younger generation, for the possibility to gain interest in state. We also received overwhelming support from different agencies and the American Legion Family for teaching classes. In June, we went to the state convention and also received other donations from other posts, including the Legion Riders and past commanders club.
On July 14, our camp commenced with an hour of the parents meeting and establishing rapport with the Legion Family before they left. All 12 children were in attendance, and learned many different technical, social and life skills from the local fire department, police department, county youth court, firearms safety, fire starting, camping, raising/lowering the flag, morning PT, DWI program, basic first aid, mapping/compass course, arts and crafts, and, of course, Americanism and Legion history taught by our Auxiliary president. It was topped off the last day with the NM national guard obstacle course, followed by a graduation with the entire community in attendance. It was a huge success and the positive feedback from the community has been amazing. The camp not only gave skills to our youth, it made our post closer and stronger. This experience has been great for all our veterans. For the graduation, our state commander and vice commander were in attendance to issue our certificates and coins. This has been one of the most memorable moments in my time in the Legion and I know others feel the same. The kids were so excited and happy, including the families. We would like to show how a tiny post can make an impact in our community and our youth. We hope others will follow in this honorable adventure.